There is a growing list of small satellite and cube satellite missions enabled by industry advances in very capable, low power and miniature digital signal processing hardware. Because the proposed phased array development is expected to result in significantly lower system costs, this phased array technology should be considered for small satellite payload and data transfer subsystems. By providing a communication solution that can be electronically steered, spacecraft attitude management is simplified allowing the payload to point at the primary target longer without interruption for data off-loading. Furthermore, by lowering antenna system costs, larger apertures can be deployed to significantly improve EIRP and G/T metrics essential for long range, high throughput capacity links. A high gain, electronically steered antenna at millimeter waves in Low Earth Orbit can reduce ground station antenna sizes enabling the deployment of small ground stations to avoid scarce resource conflicts. There is also the possibility of making the Ka band antenna compatible with K/Ka band SATCOM links to provide an additional means of transporting data or command and control messaging. The proposed phased array technology not only reduces the cost of millimeter wave phased arrays but enables significant bandwidths (20% or greater) to support commercial, military and NASA spectrum.
The proposed beamforming architecture can enable phased array application to mobile communication markets where spatial diversification is required for high capacity and frequency re-use. The innovation proposed substantially reduces control and physical complexity which will result in widespread use of phased arrays. For example, the Satellite Communications (SATCOM) market continues to grow in users as low cost, low drag antenna terminal products are realized. The proposed technology is a great fit for communications on the move applications such as SATCOM but is also expected to make a positive impact to the 5G wireless market.